RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Commonwealth’s defense harassed the University of Maine into most of its 27 turnovers and converted them into 36 points Tuesday afternoon while breezing to an 82-47 women’s basketball victory at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Rams overwhelmed the Black Bears with their quickness and defensive anticipation, coming up with 21 steals and numerous transition baskets that spelled UMaine’s demise.
“VCU was very good defensively, very aggressive in their traps and with their extended zone and zone press, and we didn’t handle it well,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron.
The Black Bears’ 1-12 start is the worst in program history and they absorbed their ninth consecutive loss.
“Before you can walk, you have to crawl,” Barron said. “Before we can win, we have to compete, we have to fight and scrap, and that’s a hard thing to get when you’re not winning games.”
UMaine remains on the road for the eighth straight game to open its America East season Saturday at Maryland Baltimore County.
Robyn Parks spearheaded the effort for the Rams (6-7), posting a double-double with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. The hosts placed four other players in double figures, including Janniina Koivunen (14), Kaneisha Atwater (13), Robyn Hobson (12) and Carleeda Green (11).
Green racked up eight assists and Atwater registered six.
Sophomore Courtney Anderson of Greene paced the UMaine offense with a career-high 15 points on the strength of 4-for-5 shooting from the 3-point line.
“All of our turnovers led to points for them,” Anderson said. “It was an absolute killer. That’s the ballgame right there.”
Classmate Danielle Walczak contributed 11 points and eight rebounds, while senior Corinne Wellington provided eight points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Freshman Liz Wood added five points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
UMaine was without freshman center Anna Heise for the second straight game because of an ankle injury.
VCU shot 47 percent (34 for 73) from the field and outrebounded UMaine 44-40. The Black Bears shot under 30 percent (18 for 61).
UMaine turned the ball over on 36 percent of its 76 offensive possessions.
“Of the turnovers that we had today, there were not many that were unforced,” Barron said. “Their defense deserves a lot of credit. They had 21 steals for the game, which is a tremendous number, and obviously steals lead to transition and easy baskets.”
Barron explained that the Rams, who beat UMaine 74-58 in Orono on Nov. 24, seemed to be geared up for the rematch. VCU was able to generate confidence with its defensive success.
“They came out with aggressiveness and we came out on the back of our heels, especially with our guard play,” he said. “Teams sense that, so we’ve got to grow past that as we mature.”
In spite of their struggles, and after trailing 35-24 at intermission, the Bears were very much in the ballgame early in the second half.
Two Wellington free throws cut the deficit to 37-29 with 18:02 remaining, but the Rams didn’t allow UMaine to get any closer.
VCU scored on six of its next seven possessions during a span of 3½ minutes to manufacture a 15-0 run that gave the Rams a commanding 52-29 advantage with 14:24 to play.
UMaine went 0 for 4 from the field and committed three turnovers during what proved to be the clinching surge for VCU. Koivunen hit two 3-pointers to spark the run, which included points from five different players.
“We just missed a lot of easy shots,” Barron said. “That made the second half look even more lopsided.”